So, I have been doing a fair amount of exploration of the White House site, because there’s all kinds of good stuff on there. Really, if you have not been checking it out, you should, because it’s a marvelous thing. It’s a great example of what government can and should be (transparent), and it is also a marvel of the ways in which technology can be used for the power of awesome. If the new White House website is any sign, good things are ahead.
The whole thing started at exactly 12:01 on Tuesday, when the site clicked over to a totally re-made White House site. Compared to the site of the Bush White House, the Obama Administration’s site is sleek, well-organized, and highly accessible. It’s got a lot of the same information, organized in a very different way.
It’s user friendly, with accessibility options and a very logical navigation system, which is awesome. I don’t have disabilities which really interfere with my enjoyment of the Internet, and I would be interested in hearing from people who use screen readers and things like that; my gut tells me that the site is highly accessible.
It’s also citizen friendly. There is a TON of info on here, from really basic stuff about how the different branches of government work to the history of White House institutions. Most critically, the website lists proclamations, pending legislation, and executive orders. I don’t know how many of you have tried to find stuff like that in the past, but it is usually really hard, and you have to know your way around systems like THOMAS. The White House apparently wants people to actively see and comment on stuff, which is very heartening.
There’s a blog, reaching out to the kids, and also archived copies of the weekly video address, which is supercool. The contact us page has actual useful information, along with a variety of contact options, and of course the agenda of the administration is front and center on the page so that people can read it. I’m seeing good things in the agenda, along with things that I disagree with, but that’s kind of the point; the whole site invites dissent, comment, and open discussion, rather than being closed and stiff in that father-knows-best way that the Bush White house had going on.
I think that the President’s team already illustrated an extensive knowledge of how to use the Internet and how to harness social networking during the campaign, and I’m pleased to see them following through on that. The campaign got a lot of young people into politics, and things like the design of the White House (and the accompanying change.gov, which invites submissions from members of the public) are going to keep people involved and engaged in the government.
This is a radically new way of doing business, people, and I am all about it.
I hope that other government websites start following suit. As anyone who has navigated government sites is well aware, they run the gamut from pretty slick, useful sites to things that look they were made on Geocities in like 1992. I think we should be using a standardized template across the board for government sites to make them easy to navigate and pretty, and that this template should integrate the accessibility and openness of the White House site.